These three defendants were sentenced today by Superior Court Judge Salem Vincent Ahto in Morris County:
They were among six top members of the Lucchese crime family who pleaded guilty on June 17, 2015 to racketeering charges in Operation Heat. Matthew Madonna, 80, of Seldon, N.Y., a member of the three-man ruling panel of the Lucchese crime family, was sentenced on Sept. 30, to five years in state prison. The former New Jersey underboss for the Lucchese crime family, Martin Taccetta, 64, of East Hanover, N.J., was sentenced on Sept. 30 to eight years in state prison. Taccetta already was serving a sentence of life in state prison plus 10 years as a result of a Division of Criminal Justice prosecution in the 1990s. John Mangrella, 73, of Clifton, N.J., another senior member of the crime family, was sentenced on Oct. 29 to eight years in state prison.
Assistant Attorney General Christopher Romanyshyn, Deputy Director of the Division of Criminal Justice, is prosecuting the defendants for the Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau.
“Operation Heat exposed a multi-billion dollar criminal gambling enterprise and underscored the fact that traditional organized crime remains a corrosive presence in New Jersey,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “By putting its leaders in prison, we struck a powerful blow against this crime family and put other criminal syndicates on notice that we’ll continue to pursue them aggressively with far-reaching investigations and prosecutions under our tough racketeering law.”
“Putting this top New Jersey capo behind bars along with two of his sons represents another red-letter day for the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice in its decades-long tradition of fighting organized crime,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We’re proud of that strong tradition and we’re letting these mob bosses know that we intend to keep it strong.”
The defendants were initially charged and arrested in Operation Heat in December 2007. The investigation uncovered an international criminal enterprise that, according to records seized, transacted an estimated $2.2 billion in wagers, primarily on sporting events, during a 15-month period. The gambling operation received and processed the wagers using password-protected websites and a Costa Rican “wire room” where bets were recorded and results tallied.
The gambling operation involved agents or “package holders,” each of whom brought in bets from a group of gamblers. The enterprise and all of its packages involved hundreds or even thousands of gamblers. Records showed that one high-rolling gambler wagered more than $2 million in a two-month period. The illicit proceeds were divided by the package holders and the members they worked under, such as the Pernas and Taccetta, who in turn made “tribute” payments to the New York bosses, including Madonna and, allegedly, Joseph DiNapoli, 80, of Scarsdale, N.Y., another member of the crime family’s ruling panel, against whom charges are pending. Collection operations at times took the form of threats or acts of violence.
The investigation also uncovered a scheme in which a former New Jersey corrections officer and a high-ranking member of the Nine Trey Gangsters set of the Bloods street gang entered into an alliance with the Lucchese crime family to smuggle drugs and pre-paid cell phones into East Jersey State Prison.
The prison smuggling scheme allegedly involved inmate Edwin B. Spears and a former corrections officer at East Jersey State Prison in Woodbridge, Michael T. Bruinton. Spears was at East Jersey State Prison at the time of the alleged conduct. It is charged that Edwin Spears, an admitted “five-star general” in the Nine Trey Gangsters set of the Bloods, formed an alliance with Joseph Perna and another defendant from the Lucchese crime family, now deceased, to smuggle drugs and cell phones into East Jersey State Prison through Bruinton. The alliance allegedly extended beyond smuggling. In one instance, Joseph Perna sought assistance from Spears to stop an individual associated with the Bloods from extorting money from a man with ties to the Lucchese family. The charges are pending against Spears and Bruinton. Several other defendants were charged in that scheme.
Assistant Attorney General Romanyshyn and former Assistant Attorney General Mark Eliades presented the case to the state grand jury. Deputy Chief of Detectives Christopher Donohue and Detective Patrick Sole of the Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau were lead detectives for the case, under the supervision of Chief of Detectives Paul Morris. Sgt. Noelle Holl was the principal detective for the financial portion of the case. Acting Attorney General Hoffman also credited former Acting Supervising State Investigator James Sweeney and the following Detectives: Sgt. Audrey Young, Ho Chul Shin, Lt. Brian Bruton, Mario Estrada, Richard DaSilva, and John Delesio. He credited the New Jersey State Police Intelligence Section for their assistance. He further thanked Auditor Thaedra Chebra of the Division of Taxation’s Office of Criminal Investigation, Detective Andrew Varga of the New York City Police Department and members of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office who provided assistance.